The French military has released drone footage taken the day after they were supposed to leave the country that alleges to have captured video of Russian paramilitary contractors from the Wagner Group, a Russian state-backed mercenary firm, burying bodies in a mass grave near Gossi.
The Malian government issued a contradictory statement, at one both accusing the French state of spying in capturing the footage, but then denying that the footage was real, accusing the French of “publishing false images.”
The propensity of the Wagner Group, which has a history of being accused of atrocities, to disrespect human rights was a major criticism of the Malian invitation for this for-profit group to intervene in Mali’s counterinsurgency against Northern militants.
The choice also raised questions over how the cash-strapped regime, which recently took power in a coup, would pay the mercenaries, other than with political favors to the Russian state.
Weeks before, the Malian army announced that they had killed 203 militants in the center of the country, but this was disputed by Human Rights Watch, who suggested that the military had instead executed more than 300 civilians.
A French request for a UN investigation submitted to the UN security council was rejected by both Russia, backed by China, who “didn’t see the need” for the UN to get involved.